Sunday, April 8, 2012

What Have You Done With My Husband...

Well before I could say $9 for chocolate Easter eggs at Al Fair!  Spring break was upon us and yet, we had still not decided how or where we were going to spend our spring vacation.  Skiing in Italy or snorkeling in the Maldives?  As of yet, no choices had been made.
One night after agreeing that we did not want to sit around the house for 2 weeks watching Cartoon Network, Peter suggested that we go to Thailand and sit on a beach at Club Med for a week.  I am rarely struck speechless but after recovering full verbal consciousness, the next words out of my mouth were "What Have You Done With My Husband?"

Those of you who know Peter will understand my dismay.  Peter is not typically a fan of hang-around-a-beach type vacations.  When we travel, we tend to trek through jungles (Malaysia), scale hillsides for hidden springs (Jordan) or just plain climb sheer rock faces to glimpse age old frescoes (Sri Lanka).

I love to travel and I usually enjoy toting 2-litre bottles of water though whatever terrain Lonely Planet has recommend we tackle in nether regions of Asia. Unfortunately, the jungles of Chiang Mai lost their appeal when compared with the allure of a week of puttering around a pool in Phuket.

After a quick visit to Oman Air for last minute airline tickets, a tour of Club Med's website to confirm that they had space available at their newly renovated resort in Phuket (have I told you that I love last minute online deals) and 48 hours later, we were on our way way to paradise!

After spending a relaxing morning trying to catch up on some of the much needed sleep we missed the night before, flying to our destination, we ventured into the vendor filled streets of Bangkok armed with a map and a plan to find food.  Once outside, we quickly realized why the bellhop thought that we were crazy to decline a taxi to our targeted goal, a mere 10 blocks away.  With sweat running into our eyes, we quickly made our way towards the air conditioned nirvana, a large shopping mall (an oxymoron, I realize).

Once inside, the air conditioning quickly brought our temperatures back to normal and we spent the next couple of hours hunting for food while shopping for bargains.  The mall itself was curious as each floor was dedicated to a specific worldwide shopping destination.  We turned down fish & chips in Britain, pasta in Italy and sourdough in San Francisco as we crossed over the Golden Gate Bridge on to a late afternoon of culinary adventures.

We reluctantly woke ourselves early the next morning and made ready for a whirlwind tour of Bangkok. When we travel to new destinations, I always arrive with a prepared itinerary in hand, stocked full of cultural experiences, local charms and typically, temples. Since we booked this trip at the last minute, I fell on the mercy of the hotel tour desk for sightseeing ideas.
With my wallet considerably lighter, we boarded a bus to a local coconut farm. Aside from the obvious push from our tour guide to shop, shop, shop the farm was relatively interesting. I especially enjoyed the coconut sugar samples and watching a tiny older Thai lady break open coconut husks like they were paper. Each of the kids had a go at this but Nick was the only one able to even break the skin of the coconut.

Next we were off to the Damnoen Saduak floating market. We enjoyed a delicious breakfast of fresh mango and rambutan with coconut pancakes, fried pork, lobster balls and chicken wontons cooked fresh and collected from one of the many canal side boats that lined the pier.
Full from breakfast, we loaded ourselves into a long tail boat driven by another older Thai lady for a tour of the market. Although the market was for the most part filled with CPC (Peter's acronym for cheap plastic crap) and non-original tourist kitch, it was interesting to float amongst the many boats and imagine how these floating markets would have traditionally served the people of Bangkok.

Our last stop for the day was a river boat dinner cruise down the Chao Phraya river. Since I hadn't booked any temple visits for our short time in Bangkok, I though that this would be a relaxing way to see some of the most well known of Bangkok's holy sites, from the outside at least. After a long wait with masses of other overpaying tourists to board our boat, we settled in for a moderately tasty buffet dinner followed by one of Bangkok's famed lady boy shows. (The shows are famous, not this particular spectacle of 6' Thai "girls" in glitzy dresses that would rival anything available in an arabian dress shop.)  Robin had a hard time believing that the performers were men dressed as women and Nick was in general, pretty much disgusted with the entire cross-dressing concept.
The next morning we headed off to the airport and boarded our short flight to Phuket.  All went well up until we landed and only 1/2 of our luggage arrived. After tracking down a Bangkok Airline's attendant to help us locate our missing bags (along with 4 other families also missing bags) we were led us to discover that the bags were not in fact missing, but that they had mistakenly forgotten to be unloaded from the aircraft.
Upon arrival at the newly renovated Club Med resort on Katathani beach, on ko Phuket we were greeted with beautiful orchid lays, refreshing iced tea and lightly minted lemon water.  The cool drinks and friendly reception were a welcome launch into Club Med and all it had to offer.  Armed with schedules for the "kids clubs" and a date to meet in 20 minutes for afternoon snacks, our real holiday had begun!

The next day, we signed the kids into their kids club activities for the day (and evening!) and set off to enjoy ourselves beside the pool.  Truthfully, I was expecting the kids to enjoy kids club but be pretty happy to join us at 17:00.  When we collected the kids for our short daily kids club reprieve from 17:00 - 18:30, they were full of stories of new friends, new adventures and couldn't wait to join their new found companions for dinner that nite.  Even Ryan wanted to eat with the kids club and not with us.  Peter and I enjoyed the first of several quiet adult dinners by ourselves.

After the first day, the kids let us know in no uncertain terms, that they were not going to explore the island with us but would be returning to kids club for the duration of their holiday.  Since Nick was in the Junior Teen club, he had the ability to come and go at will from all of his activities.  Robin was also given the ability to sign herself out of club and return at her own discretion since all of her new friends also had this privilege.  Ryan it seemed was the only one who actually needed to see us at the end of the day.  After he finished his daily swim in the "big" pool, he was quick to rejoin his friends for dinner.  One morning, as Peter was bidding Nick good day he mentioned that he would see him that evening around 17:00.  Nick then informed his father that he would be golfing with his friend Ivan at 17:00 and that we would see him after the evenings entertainment.

The food at the resort was incredible!  There were several stations set up featuring delicacies from Thailand, Japan, Italy, India, USA, etc.  Each nite the resort kept with the country food themes but changed the menu so we were never short of new food choices to sample.   The kids were also encouraged to choose healthy, balanced meals with the help of color coded, sectioned food trays (think of a giant toddler plate) with corresponding cards beside a worldwide range of child friendly food options.
The bar also quickly became a central feature of our visit to Club Med.   Not only did they serve the usual alcoholic concoctions, we could also get a wide range of non-alcoholic fruit drinks and mock-tails.  Nick was especially impressed with the selection of smoothies available (read blue raspberry slushies) at his command.  Robin was only given an incorrect order once when she ordered a chocolate milkshake and ended up with a Kahlua shake.  She wasn't impressed!  Neither was I but she gave the unfortunately new bartender quite a dressing down...8 year old girls don't drink get the picture;+)

The most impressive of the activities that the kids were able to enjoy in addition to swimming, golf, archery and beach volleyball had to be their daily circus training!  This was a daily highlight and one of  the reasons the kids refused to miss kids club.  Starting on the super bouncer, a professional circus trampoline that allowed the kids vault themselves 20 feet into the air while strapped into a harness gave them the taste for front and back flips and got Nick and Robin eager to try the life-sized flying trapeze.  I was absolutely amazed by the dexterity and ease with which the kids picked this skill up!  It was truly incredible watching Robin flying through the air while hanging by her knees and seeing Nick master a catch while 30 feet above the ground with only a harness a safety net to catch him if he fell.  Even Ryan managed to learn how to flip while jumping on the super bouncer.
In between circus training, swiming in the adult only zen pool, experiencing my first ever couples spa date and enjoying the evening cabaret shows & disco with Robin, I did manage to fit in an incredible snorkeling trip to some of the surrounding islands.  Peter was also able to undertake his first scuba dive in over 15 years and Nick was able to complete his PADI Bubble Makers course.  I have travelled the world but have never seen such white sand or so many fish!  I will definitely return to Thailand and Phuket if only to experience these marvels again!  The kids are also keen to return and have conditioned that any vacation we take in the future must include a trapeze and kids club!  I have never had such a relaxing holiday in such a scenic locale!  I highly recommend Phuket as a rejuvination destination and I am a Club Med convert!  It was incredible!

A demain...

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